Hut-to-Hut Hiking With Kids? Yes! Check Our Tips, Routes and Packing List

By Sierd van der Bij

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Hut-to-Hut Hiking With Kids? Yes! Check Our Tips, Routes and Packing List
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Hiking from hut to hut is not the most obvious option for a holiday with the kids. Up and down mountains, say 2,000 meters of elevation gain, a dormitory full of roaring mountain enthusiasts, and the inevitable "Are we almost there yet?". - Nothing for children, right? Well, yes, it is! If we at Bookatrekking.com agree on anything, it's that the mountains have something to offer for everyone: including the little ones and the smallest aspiring mountain goats. With a well-tailored itinerary, an adventurous spirit, and tips from our trekking experts and clients who have gone before you, you too will go on a hut-to-hut trip with the entire family!

We regularly come across customers at Bookatrekking.com who themselves went on a hut-hiking trip with mum and dad as children and now want to do it themselves. There may have been years of beach holidays, backpacking and festivals in between, but there comes a day when you are grateful to your parents for those long journeys to the Alps. Valuable life lessons. Do you too want to give your kids a fond memory of the mountains? Great idea! 

7 Tips for Hiking From Hut to Hut With Children

Is your child ready for hiking from hut to hut? Let's put one thing straight. A child is always ready for any new adventure. A child adapts to a new situation faster than an adult. Also, it is not your child who found this blog post wondering how to go go hiking from hut to hut as a child. It is you, the parent or carer, who found this blog post and you are wondering what to consider. Nothing wrong with that, because there are definitely some things you need to consider.

Hiking from hut to hut with a toddler is not the same as with a child of 12. From around 12 years old, many children can handle the same as adults with some patience. For a hut to hut trek with children under 12, we give you 7 tips and then we give you some suitable routes as a bonus.

7 Tips for Hiking From Hut to Hut With Children

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Tip 1: Kids Decide (Almost) Everything

What they always like to be, they really are on a hut to hut trek: in charge. They don't need to know but you certainly do! If the children are happy on a hike, so are you. Both during the preparation, the journey there, and the hike itself, adapt yourself to your child. This doesn't mean they make all the decisions. It means they have a voice when it comes to choosing which hut hike to go on, but more importantly still, they set the pace.

When hiking with children, the emphasis should always be on fun and never on sporting ambitions. If your child is already hiking by himself, take it easy. Unlike a day hike, when hiking from hut to hut with children it is often not possible to shorten or to abort the mission. Less is more! If you arrive at the hut in the early afternoon, it doesn't matter. You then have more time to play, frolic, or enjoy a Kaiserschmarrn.

Tip 1: Kids Decide (Almost) Everything

Tip 2: Don't underestimate children!

Melynda Harris hiked the Alta Via 2 in September 2022 with her husband and her two sons (14 and 15): "Although I'm glad we waited until they were teenagers to do this, we could easily have done a shorter or less steep trek when they were younger. The main thing we had to think about was whether we had enough food. The lunches you buy at the rifugios were quite small, so we always got extra chocolate and snacks. Most days we stopped for lunch at rifugios or restaurants along the way, but my teenagers were still hungry from time to time."

The children are already teenagers but the Alta Via 2 is still a very tough hike, definitely not recommended for children under 12. However, the experience was not too bad for Melynda: "Personally, I found the whole hike downright delightful. I wish we could have kept going. It was puffing and panting at some stretch though, especially for my husband and me. The kids just kept going."

Photo: Melynda Harris and the children on the Alta Via 2

Tip 2: Don't underestimate children!

Tip 3: Hut to Hut Hiking With Children, Not Child

Our trekking expert Sierd lives in Cape Town and regularly goes hiking in the mountains with his son. Although, regularly? "We are fortunate here that we literally live on a mountain and so we can always do an impromptu hike after school or at weekends. When he was around three years old, he liked to go without a hitch but now that he is eight, he doesn't immediately find it exciting. Of course, he is already somewhat used to it, so the challenge is not so much in the walk but in what he encounters along the way. And that very thing is more fun when he walks or runs with other children."

Are there siblings? Great, then they can entertain each other. Not? Then consider going on a hike with another family. Together is more fun than alone, especially for children. Sierd: "If the children are enjoying themselves, you are more likely to keep walking. They then come up with their own ways to make it exciting or competitive. A race is always fun of course!"

Photo: Sierd of Bookatrekking.com and son on Elsie's Peak in Cape Town

Tip 3: Hut to Hut Hiking With Children, Not Child

Tip 4: Children’s Happiness Lies at the Summit

It doesn't have to be a race, but having a goal is always fun. Children will soon realise that they are walking from hut to hut. They see mountain peaks everywhere but these do not necessarily come closer. Climbing a mountain peak is a physical and mental challenge that makes for great memories. We often hear that these are unforgettable moments from clients who climb Kilimanjaro. You are not going to find Kilimanjaro in the Alps, but there are countless smaller peaks that are relatively easy to climb.

The mountain huts you encounter on a hike are not just there for you as a hiker. If they were built by the Alpine Association, they were originally often bases for climbing peaks. From every hut, you can climb a few peaks, which often include peaks that are doable for children. Have a short hiking day and arrive at the hut early? Have a bite to eat and find children's happiness at the summit!

Tip 5: I Spy With My Little Eye

"I can't go any further." You're bound to hear it a few times during a hut trip with children. This does not mean that your child is completely spent. Good chance he or she is bored. Then it's time for singing, dancing, or playing. Throwing stones in a mountain lake, trying to whistle on blades of grass, guessing animals, eye spy with my little eye, there is always something to come up with.

Without stuffing the kids full of sugar, this is also always a good time to have something to eat. Bring plenty of (healthy) snacks and sit down for one. When walking with children, the walk is the destination. You can fully enjoy the time you have together with your family on a hike.

Tip 5: I Spy With My Little Eye

Tip 6: Kids Have a Packing List Too

You're going to the Alps, not camping. Having a packing list for your hike will ensure that you have everything you need with you and don't have to drag along too much. Are the kids coming along and can't yet carry a backpack of their own? Then assume that this will be added to your backpack. Here you can find a complete packing list with a checklist for your hut trip.

Children have their own packing list. This will make sure you have or get everything they need. Involve your child in this. Go to the outdoor shop together and take the packing list below with you. You can then look together at what you already have and on the day of packing, you can cross everything off together. You can find a PDF version of the packing list below here.

Tip 6: Kids Have a Packing List Too

Tip 7: Book Together and (Well) In Advance

The fun of a hut-to-hut hiking trip with children starts when you start working on finding a suitable option. Depending on how old your children are, you can research together. How many days will you be on the road? How long are you hiking for? What would you take with you? Read descriptions of and look at photos and videos together. Children don't want to be just a "fellow hiker", but want to know what to expect.

The hut-to-hut hiking season starts mid-June and ends mid-September. In recent years, treks and huts have grown enormously in popularity. If you want a chance of getting a private or family room, it is wise to make your plans as early as possible. If you have slightly older children, a family room may not even be that interesting. It can also be fun and exciting to share a room with hikers you don't know.

Suitable Routes for Hut-To-Hut Hiking With Kids

If you are looking for a hut tour with the kids, it can quickly become overwhelming. Differences in altitude, levels of difficulty, and huts that are or are not child-friendly, Austria or France? Where do you start? At Bookatrekking.com, we help families choose hut-to-hut hiking trips every year. Looking for a tour package? Below you will find all child-tested and popular options in an easy overview.

From 4 Years: Vallée de la Clarée in France

Mont Thabor is a 3,178-metre-high mountain in the Massif des Cerces mountain range, in the Hautes-Alpes in France. Although beautiful, we are more interested in the hiking trails around this peak, especially those starting in the picturesque village of Névache. Located in the Vallée de la Clarée, this village is one of the Alps' best-kept secrets. The Tour du Mont Thabor is for mountain goats, but we have developed a trek that is fully geared to the tiniest mountain goats.

3 days and 2 nights in Vallée de la Clarée gives you the opportunity to see if hiking from hut to hut with children is for you. No more than 2 to 4 hours of hiking daily, relatively little altitude gain, family-friendly huts, and all the while you and the kids are in the French Alps. Find our packages for a hut tour in Vallée de la Clarée here.

From 4 Years: Vallée de la Clarée in France

From 6 Years: Lasörling Höhenweg in Austria

If children are 6, you can assume they can do the trek without too much parental help. If they are younger, you either take it very easy or you still carry the little one from time to time. On the Lasörling Höhenweg in Austria you hike between 2.5 and 5 hours a day, with patience doable with children. Last summer, Anne Verbokkem hiked the Lasörling Höhenweg with three children, aged 12, 15 and 15. As a child, she went on a hike in the same area once herself. Anne: "I saw the Grossglockner then. We also did the Tour du Mont Blanc once. I have very fond memories of that. Especially the huts in the mountains were an adventure for me too, eating together with others in the evening, going to sleep, and getting up early again."

The children were not too bad, as far as their own physical exertion was concerned. For the slightly older children, the lack of Wi-Fi was a problem at first: "They got used to this over the days. We played games in the huts and went to bed early. Always a good idea to bring a deck of cards. Also, download some movies on the phone or tablet for them to watch. A pocket knife, compass and binoculars are a must, there is so much to see!"

From 6 Years: Lasörling Höhenweg in Austria

From 8 Years: Short Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites

Thanks to their sublime, monumental, and colourful landscapes, the Dolomites are among the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world. That it is a deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site is evident every year on the trails of the popular Alta Via 1. The route, a stone's throw from Cortina d'Ampezzo and starting at the famous Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee), attracts thousands of hikers every year. The entire Alta Via 1 takes more than a week and is not suitable for families. The northern part of the Alta Via 1 though, which includes the start of the route, is often booked by families.

Some even with children under 8, like the family of Andrew and Phoebe Mackenzie from Australia. A surprising trip: "My wife and I have always talked about doing a hut-to-hut hike, but never made it a priority in our travels before we had children. We thought we might have to wait ten years until our children became teenagers, but because Bookatrekking.com allowed children and gave us good advice, we were happy to do the Alta Via 1 with our sons aged 6 and 3. We were traveling from Australia for a family wedding in Italy and made sure we had plenty of time for hiking. We had done full-day hikes before, but never a multi-day hike."

It turned out to be a fantastic experience for all four, says Andrew: "The kids found it more interesting than we expected. Four days of hiking is such precious bonding time. We were able to talk, laugh and sing. We came up with discussion topics like religion, climate change, ethics, family history, etc. - Topics that require thinking and conversation time, which you don't get time for in daily life."

Andrew and Phoebe didn't have to buy much for the boys: "We already had a carrier for our 3-year-old. We bought a big hiking backpack that could also carry all our overnight gear. Our hiking boots were already worn in. We bought hiking poles in Cortina and that definitely helped our 6-year-old. We bought our 6-year-old a Fitbit, which gave him a sense of achievement at the end of each day when he analysed the data."

"Basically, doing a hike with children is feasible. Other hikers were so encouraging and kind to our children. Yes, it is more effort and takes a bit longer, but it is an experience for them that not many of their peers will have. I hope our 6-year-old will at least remember the sense of achievement he felt every day and that it will be a fond memory that develops him as a person," Andrew said. With a little patience, children as young as 8 years old can hike the short Alta Via 1. To make it bite-sized, the trekking experts have developed a version of the short Alta Via 1 where the huts are booked a little closer together. This allows for shorter distances and thus more time for daily hiking. You can read more about the Alta Via 1 here and compare options for the Alta Via 1 here.

Photo: The Mackenzie family on the short Alta Via 1

From 8 Years: Short Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites

Safe hiking tips for a hut-to-hut trek

When you go on walking holidays it is wise to be aware of a few points. Even if this is not your first time, you should never underestimate the mountains. Good tour planning and compliance with the regulations on the mountains will significantly increase safety. To ensure that your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, here below you can find a list of 8 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains:

Know your limits

Hiking is the perfect outlet to escape from daily life. It is an endurance sport along with a beautiful nature experience with a positive effect on body and mind —as long as one is in good shape and has a realistic picture of one's possibilities and limits—. Never overestimate yourself or underestimate the route. Don't overdo it! Always choose the slower variant and take more time for your plans. Hiking under time pressure is not fun and at too fast a pace it can be dangerous. Be wise!

Plan carefully

Good planning is half the work! Hiking maps, literature, the Internet and expert advice are invaluable when planning the route and enable you to determine the length, altitude difference, difficulty and conditions of the hike. When planning group treks, the itinerary should always be planned for the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast beforehand and contact our trekking experts to find your way around before you start.

Be fully equipped

Equipment is everything. In the most extreme case, it makes the difference between life and death, and in any case, it definitely makes the difference between having fun and having a bad time. Food and water, sunscreen and waterproof and warm clothes must always be in your backpack, as well as a first aid kit and a mobile phone with a full battery (in case there is an emergency). However, packing light makes walking easier, so don't take too much extra luggage with you. Your equipment should always be suitable for the terrain you'll be hiking on.

Wear suitable footwear

Good walking shoes protect your feet and provide a better fit. Shoes with a good fit, with non-slip soles, water-resistant and lightweight are a must for additional walking pleasure during the hike. Trail running shoes are great for a weekend in the mountains, but on longer hikes or more technical trails, you'll want at least A/B hiking boots. That means it is recommended wearing high mountain shoes that are water-repellent with extra ankle support to prevent sprains.

Stay on marked trails

Hut-to-hut tours have endless marked hiking trails, which are controlled and maintained and should not be deviated from. It may be tempting, but it's not a good idea to take shortcuts or alternative routes through unmarked terrain. It increases the risk of disorientation and you're more likely to get lost and have accidents or fall in the mountains. Even steep slopes of packed old snow are often underestimated and dangerous. Are you in doubt? Better don't do it. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you. FYI, 75% of stumbles occur due to carelessness on marked paths or roads, not in open terrain!

Take regular breaks

Remember you're on a hiking holiday. Timely and regular breaks not only provide welcome relaxation but also make it possible to enjoy the trek. The body needs a regular food and drink intake to maintain performance and concentration. Our advice is that if you have little time, it's better to follow the short itinerary than to speed up the long one.

Stay reachable

If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the area.

Respect nature

Leave no rubbish behind, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Do I Book My Hut-To-Hut Trek?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book self-guided hut-to-hut tours. We arrange the mountain huts and other accommodation for you and make sure you receive all relevant information well in advance.  If you have any questions about hut to hut treks with children, contact our trekking experts. They will be happy to help you make an informed choice!

Want to read more about hut-to-hut hiking in general? Then check out one of our next blog posts: 

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